tv 2020 ABC January 20, 2018 10:00pm-11:00pm PST
culture, and gastronomy, look no further than mexico's yucatán peninsula. immerse yourself into endless possibilities. there's so much to explore in the bay area, so we'll be back with more stories to share. in the meantime, we want to hear from you, so send us your favorite places, pictures, and videos of the bay area. visit us online, join us on facebook, and follow us on twitter. all of this fun driven by your northern california honda dealer. >> for more information on the vehicle featured in this episode, visit norcalhondadealers.com. ♪ ♪
>> we were all you know, "my goodness. what's going on here? this is so weird." >> reporter: weird doesn't begin to cover it. sarah told authorities she thought they were going to get tattoos. instead she says they found out they were all going to be branded. >> reporter: it sounds like a horror movie, what you're describing. >> it was a horror movie. it was the most inhumane, horrific way to treat anybody. >> reporter: what was that like? >> it was worse than childbirth. >> reporter: it was worse than childbirth? >> yup. it was -- imagine a hot laser dragged across your flesh for 30 minutes without anesthetic. >> reporter: at this point you're probably wondering, how in the world did this happen? sarah seems so normal. she lives in vancouver where she is a wife and mother with a successful film and television career. >> do i know you? >> i don't think so. >> oh no, i'm forgetting so much recently.
but i never forget a face. >> reporter: but her life changed after she crossed paths with a secretive self-help group called nxivm and its charismatic leader, keith raniere. >> i'm an interesting person, i'm a controversial person, but most importantly i'm an unconventional person. >> reporter: according to promotional materials, even as a child raniere was destined for greatness. speaking in full sentences at age one, reading at two. judo champ and concert level pianist at 13. >> i was told that he was one of the smartest men in the world, and just an incredible man. >> with that i'm going to pass the microphone over. >> reporter: so incredible, it seems, that an ordinary name just won't do. participants say they are taught to call raniere "vanguard." vanguard? >> yes. it'ses the name we referred to keith as because he is a leader
of the philosophical movement. >> reporter: the second highest ranking member of nxivm is a woman named nancy salzman. former members say she is known as "prefect." >> so keith and nancy, vanguard and prefect. >> reporter: at the heart of nxivm training is something called intensives, which former members say are like group therapy, running as long as 14 hours a day for up to 16 days. edmondson says she attended her first in 2005 when she was 27. >> i left my five-day, my initial training as if a veil had been lifted. and i could see things more clearly in my life. i could communicate better with people. >> reporter: that sounds fantastic. >> yeah, it was great. >> reporter: classes are invitation only and they are not cheap. a five-day "intensive" will run you $3,000. the 16-day is $7,500. in promotional videos and materials it claims more than 16,000 people world wide have taken nxivm courses. many testify to its
effectiveness. >> i learned through the tools that there was a different way. >> reporter: sarah was recruited into the group by filmmaker mark vicente. what was it that was so compelling to you? >> just a way to break and understand certain things in my life in a way i never have before. >> reporter: raniere is fiercely protective of his teachings, requiring participants to sign confidentiality agreements. >> everyone signed it. and if you didn't sign it, you couldn't take the curriculum. >> reporter: we do know that nxivm has its own lingo, students are taught about overcoming "disintegrations" to become more "potent" and less "suppressive," and avoiding people termed "parasites" or "luciferians." rick ross studies groups like nxivm. >> in my opinion, it's basically copied from other sources, specifically scientology, ayn rand, and est, so, there's all of that mixed together, and that becomes nxivm. very unoriginal.
>> reporter: original or not, raniere's teachings were good enough for sarah and her friend mark to spend more than a decade rising through the nxivm ranks and becoming ever more willing to follow their leaders. >> if you're told, "the world could be so much better if you weren't quite so screwed up," you're like, "you're right. let me get more un -- unscrewed up." and pretty soon you're spending years unscrewing yourself. >> reporter: sarah says she devoted 12 years to nxivm, recruiting hundreds of new members, rising through the organization, even opening and running a center in vancouver. along the way, becoming best friends with nancy salzman's daughter lauren. who was maid of honor at sarah's wedding. >> she's like my therapist. and in the ranking system she's also above me. >> reporter: then, in march, after all their years together in nxivm, sarah says lauren approached her about a new and mysterious opportunity. >> i wanna invite you to something that totally changed my life. >> reporter: it was a secret
sorority, for women only. >> life changing, but top secret. and the first step is making a vow of obedience to her as me being a slave, and her being my master. again -- >> reporter: slave? she used the word slave? >> slave. she used the word slave. >> reporter: did you object? >> i -- of course. yeah, i objected every stage of the way. and she said, "it's just -- it's a metaphor. it's like guru-disciple." >> reporter: then came the night sarah says she and four other women submitted, one by one, to being branded by this woman, she says, dr. danielle roberts. >> and the woman on the table screamed out in pain twisted and turned and yelled. and the woman i was with holding her legs down, we looked at each other, and we just wept. >> reporter: why didn't you let go, and run out of there, even naked? >> it didn't seem like a choice at the time. >> reporter: she points to years of nxivm training. >> all the indoctrination, all the years of "women are weak.
women have no character," now is the time to prove i can do it. >> reporter: sarah gives another explanation for her obedience. before she joined the secret sorority and got branded, she says lauren salzman had demanded highly compromising "collateral." >> you need to provide something to me that i'm gonna hold forever just to confirm, and to -- and to solidify that you'll never share the secret. >> reporter: so what did you give her? >> so i gave her a written confessional. >> reporter: she says for her and some others, the price of admission to the secret group also included providing nude photos of themselves. >> so understand when women do that, it's very difficult to say, "no, i'm not doing this." 'cause you -- you have something -- the person has something of you with them. >> reporter: instantly all my alarm bells are going off. >> absolutely. >> reporter: so why did you do it? >> i did it because i trusted her. >> reporter: and can you just stand up and point on your body through your clothes where the brand is? >> yep. so it's right here under my -- >> reporter: it's right here? >> yeah, right there. right under my underwear line. >> reporter: she gave us photos. in her complaint to the new york state department of health, she
says she was told the brand was a latin symbol but says she realized it really included the letters "k" and "r," which are also the initials of keith raniere. >> i lost it when i figured that out. >> reporter: you're stamped as property of somebody? >> i am not cattle. i'm not owned by keith. >> reporter: keith raniere, vanguard, has not responded to our requests for an interview. his website says he's not associated with the secret sorority, and it's not part of nxivm. an attorney for dr. danielle roberts, the alleged brander, tells abc news the allegations are unfounded. >> hi, i'm glenn ruppel with abc news. >> oh. >> reporter: a "20/20" producer caught up with dr. roberts at a wellness expo in new york city. >> i'd just like to ask you a question about the women who said you branded them? >> we're at a wellness expo and that's completely irrelevant from the purpose of why we are here today. >> okay, does keith reniere know that you're been branding, can you tell me how many people have been branded by you? >> i'm sorry, there's no comment
about that. there's a lot of allegations and there's nothing, there's no comment that we have. >> reporter: still ahead, the man called vanguard, keith raniere. the secrets of his attraction. and what some say can happen if you cross him. >> if you question keith raniere, the [ bleep ] hits the fan. >> reporter: stay with us.
the strange and secretive group with a name like a roman numeral. keith raniere's first big idea was hawking memberships in an ill-fated network marketing company called consumer's buyline -- >> his name is keith raniere. his idea is called consumer's buyline. >> reporter: this promotional video for consumer's buyline from the 1990s features the late eddie albert of green acres fame and a painfully awkward pitchman, 31-year-old, keith raniere. >> keith, happy to see you again. >> yes. happy to see you too. >> it's an amazing idea. >> yes. well, sometimes it even amazes me. but consumers buyline is wonderful. and it's working. >> it really was a brilliant idea. it was based on the premise of, as a group, collectively, we can buy in bulk, and we can save a lot of money.
>> reporter: toni natalie knew raniere before he was vanguard. she even appears in this 1993 "american spotlight" program lauding consumer's buyline. >> traditional markups are between 4 and 800 percent in the cosmetic industry -- >> when you met him did he seem like a genius? >> he seemed like a geek so i sat down and i asked him, "so, you have a 240 iq, why are you doing this? why aren't you curing cancer? why aren't you really making a difference?" and he said, "this is the platform that i'm gonna use, and i'm gonna change the world. >> reporter: even then, the man who would become vanguard had big plans. in that american spotlight video, he sports a beard and a vision. >> as far as consumers buyline goes, it's merely a stepping stone to really change the way we live and maximize human potential. >> reporter: unlike the guy from green acres, attorneys general in several states didn't think raniere's idea was quite so amazing, or honest. >> we first told you when the company was accused of being an illegal keep. >> reporter: they agreed to pay
hundreds of thousands of dollars to the states. after that, the company went bust. by that time, toni natalie was all in. she had left her husband and moved to albany with her young son to be with keith. they were together for nearly 6 years. she says in all-night talks, keith drew out all of her secrets. >> here's the smartest man in the world willing to help you through your emotional issues, and the reason that you're stuck in this world and the reason that you can't move on, and the reason you can't grow, is because you haven't learned how to heal that thing inside of you. >> i'll help you -- >> i'm going to help you -- >> make it all better. >> i going to help you heal sexually, i'm going to help you heal intellectually. i'm going to show you the path. >> reporter: toni saw the early days raniere's partnership with nancy salzman, the creation of nxivm teachings known as "rational inquiry" and methods that in court filings she later likened to brainwashing. >> what keith does, he elicits all that information from you. my opinion is that what they do from there, is they take that
information and they utilize that. where can i not build you up, but break you down? >> reporter: according to former members, the sessions came to involve practices such as bowing and a special handshake. at nxivm's albany headquarters, people inside can be seen wearing sashes. former members say different colors denote rank. former coach margot joy leviton says classes begin with a ritual handclap. and we do something that we would call a huddle. so, everyone would put their arms around each other in this big circle -- >> we are committed to our success. >> and then straight into the mission statement. >> there are no ultimate victims, therefore i will not choose to be a victim. >> reporter: maher margos says anyone unwilling to go along with the rituals -- would be scorned. >> we would just suppress them
and be like, "oh, they just don't get it. they don't get it." >> i mean, if you step out of line you get punished you know, you get a lot of, like, strong thought control, you know, leveled at you. and you get told you -- >> what does that mean, strong-- >> it means, basically like, using intellect to try to -- to out-logic you, to basically say, "you're the problem. this problem you're bringing us, no, no, you're the problem. if you question keith raniere, the [ bleep ] hits the fan. >> like what? >> you are -- you are prideful, how dare you, don't you realize you owe everything to him? i'm like what? >> reporter: jen kobelt is an aspiring actress in vancouver, but when she joined nxivm she says her classmates treated her like a star. >> it was like i was a celebrity, like i walked in and everyone was like who's that girl and they were so nice to me. >> reporter: she says members were encouraged to socialize with other members, outside friends faded away.
we were told things not directly, but subtly do you wanna be surrounded by people who are, you know, just living their life, or do you wanna be surrounded by people who have an ethical mission to change the world. >> reporter: in a recent statement, nxivm claims a ten year study shows "extraordinary psychological benefits and results" from its teachings. and margot the former coach says nxivm changed her life in positive ways. but she also describes feeling bullied and manipulated by some of the training, which she says caused her psychological trauma. >> it feels like they got in there and they messed with my wiring, or how i think, or my perceptions. >> reporter: and then there's a case mentioned in court filings involving a woman named kristin snyder -- she went missing in 2003 after walking out of a nxivm intensive in alaska, police believe she
paddled a kayak out into the bone chilling waters of resurrection bay and committed suicide. her friend hillary, who asked us not to use her last name, reads a note that kristin left. >> i attended a course called executive success programs, aka nxium, i was brainwashed, and my emotional center of the brain was killed, turned off. please contact my parents. sorry. if you find me or this note. i am sorry, life. i didn't know i was already dead. >> reporter: kristin snyder's body was never found. coming up claims that keith raniere is not just interested in the mind. >> with keith, sex and his having a relationship with you
>> reporter: if you go in search of nxivm founder keith raniere, you may get a glimpse of him taking one of his legendary long walks, as we did in 2012. or you might find his followers enjoying an extended celebration of raniere's birthday at this local resort an annual tradition known as "vanguard week." because it takes a week to celebrate his birthday. >> people would fly in from all over the world, from mexico, canada, europe, and spend 10 days, 12 days now together celebrating keith. >> vanguard is the name.
and he's our conceptual leader. keith raniere is his name. >> i loved v-week. i loved it. it was like my favorite time of year. i missed my best friend's wedding, and it still makes me emotional, because i thought that's more important, to be at v-week. and i missed her wedding. i was so in. >> reporter: you were deeply in. >> i was deep in. >> reporter: sarah edmondson says one of raniere's favorite past times was holding court. literally on a volleyball court. at all hours of the night. >> so volleyball was his passion he still plays multiple times a week in upstate new york. >> in between games, there were all these -- there was rows of, like, women waiting there for him. and the minute the game was over, they'd all rush up. it was like, this weird rock star thing. >> if there was enough people there, he might stop volleyball and do what he called a forum where people could ask questions and he would answer them. >> they hung on his every single word. and he'd say something.
and they'd go up and think, "okay, well, he said blah, blah, blah. wonder what that means. what if it's this. what if --" and they'd spend, i don't know, weeks trying to understand that statement. >> reporter: one thing sarah edmondson says was taught consistently was raniere's philosophy of women's empowerment, a theory he called "jness." >> one of the key principles in jness was understanding that the main difference between men and women was that men are designed genetically to not be monogamous, spread their seed. and women genetically are designed to be monogamous. >> reporter: okay. >> and not only that, but subservient to men. >> reporter: subservient? >> subservient. >> reporter: toni natalie says that attitude toward women certainly came through in her experience with keith. in a federal court filing she alleged that nxivm was a cult presided over by keith raniere and that he had raped her repeatedly. >> keith's need to share what he calls his energy, became pretty aggressive. >> reporter: his energy?
with keith, sex and him having a relationship with you is how he shares his energy. so, when i no longer wanted to have relationships with him any longer, he would force, he would rape me. >> reporter: in their filings, nxivm lawyers say her allegations are false. they call them "scurrilous," "scandalous," and "slanderous." but the philosopher, some former followers say, was also a philanderer with what amounts to a harem of women around him. >> i have spoken to five different women who were in the harem, and they have all said, he was kind, and gentle. and it was like having a normal boyfriend except you didn't know when you were gonna see him next. and then he'd go off with another woman the next day. and that was incredibly painful,
and very hard. >> there's all these adoring women. and they're all skinny beyond belief. they don't seem to do anything without his permission. >> reporter: how does he do it? because to be honest, he looks like schlub. >> right, right. >> my personal belief is that it's one, gigantic hypnotic induction. you're stripped away from everything so you're isolated in the fact where, from my experience then, that the only people around you are the people that follow his philosophies. >> reporter: barbara bouchey joined keith raniere's self-help group almost 20 years ago. she was a financial planner. >> i was grossing about $1 million a year. my client minimum was $1 million. and i was financially independent. >> reporter: in spite of her success, it was a difficult time in barbara's life. she was in the midst of a divorce and had lost a close friend to suicide. she says raniere's teachings really helped. it didn't hurt that keith was paying special attention to the latest convert. >> told me that he had dreams for two or three years and
visions before i came that someone like me was coming. >> reporter: when they became intimate, barbara says she thought she was keith's one and only, but she was actually one of many. worse than a broken heart. she says she feared keith would leave her financially broke. bouchey alleges in court filings raniere convinced her to invest with him, saying he had invented a mathematical formula to get rich in the commodities market. >> within two months, it cleared through $1.6 million of my money. >> reporter: in litigation, keith blamed his broker for the losses. barbara says he and others around him also tried to blame her bad karma. >> and it can't be keith, he's a mathematical genius, it can't be his formula. and they're, like, "you know, what if your emotional issues are causing the stock market in this case to fluctuate? what if you're, in a mystical, spiritual way, bringing this onto yourself?" >> i've had people killed
because of my beliefs and because of their beliefs and because of things i've said. >> reporter: in 2009 barbara bouchey was one of nine women, they call themselves the nxivm nine who confronted keith about the running of the organization. they recorded two days of their own "intensive" in which they attempt to turn keith's own rational inquiry method against him. most of it has been sealed by a judge, but a short clip remains online. >> the effects are our company is falling apart. >> you don't have the experience of leadership. you don't have the experience of preserving people's lives with what you say, and the truth of the matter is, if -- >> well in a way neither do you. >> yes i do. >> reporter: the nxivm nine, including barbara all quit the
group shortly after that confrontation. but nxivm is always recruiting new members. coming up -- vanguard goes hollywood. why are so many young actors following the guru of albany? >> reporter: why do you think that's -- >> so emotional for me? >> yes. >> reporter: and one star's fight to get her daughter back. >> she's in danger, in my opinion she's in grave danger. >> reporter: stay with us.
>> when i first came, i had on the surface seemed like the perfect life, or a pretty good life. >> reporter: allison mack didn't need coaching to sound convincing on this nxivm testimonial. she's a pro. she's best known as a star on smallville. >> yes, i know allison mack very well. >> reporter: sarah edmondson
says when mack came to a weekend event in 2008, she quickly became a favorite of management. >> and she had a huge following lots of fans. >> reporter: plenty of fellow actors have at least dabbled in nxivm. >> there was mack's co-star on smallville kristen kreuk. her boyfriend, actor mark hildreth. and hawaii five o's grace park appeared in this video with keith reniere. of these, mack is the only one confirmed to have stayed with nxivm long term. >> that kind of leads me to my next question which has to do with authenticity. >> reporter: she went from smallville to a big league role with the group, ditching hollywood to move to albany. where she became so close to vanguard, she appeared in this video conversation with him. >> so one would say authenticity is being as you are. >> reporter: his words literally moved her to tears.
>> i don't know why. it makes me want to cry its beautiful. >> why do you think that's -- >> so emotional for me? >> yes. >> i guess because i feel like i just want it. authenticity. >> reporter: edmundson says it was mack who started that secret sorority in albany along with keith reniere. those brands on the women's bodies? edmundson says they don't just have k.r. for keith raniere. but they also have a.m. for allison mack. >> welcome to teen talk, i'm india oxenberg. >> reporter: another woman who joined mack's sorority and may have had those letters seared on her body was india oxenberg, another young actress whose mother is also in the business. katherine oxenberg is best known for her role in the '80s hit drama "dynasty." >> my name is amanda, amanda bedford. >> reporter: later she appeared
with a very young india in this movie. >> i found him in the closet. >> reporter: and a reality show called "i married a princess." but what she says is the reality of nxivm is something she now wishes she never shared with india. >> once i found out about the sex, the branding, the slaves, i went nuts. >> reporter: oxenberg hasn't seen her daughter in months and is both gripped with fear and wracked with guilt because she herself brought india into nxivm. they went to an introductory session together in 2011. >> i just couldn't wait to get out of there and i said to india what do you think? and she said this is for me and i was in shock. >> how old was she at this time? >> 19. >> so pretty. >> pretty young, pretty impressionable. >> reporter: she says trouble started when india, seen here in this nxvium video, started taking classes to become a coach. during this time, oxenberg says her daughter burned through her entire inheritance, largely, she believes to pay for those classes. >> once she moved to albany she became very secretive.
the end of last april a defector called me and said you need to save india. >> reporter: oxenberg says this was the first time she heard about that secret sorority. i mean you must have been out of your mind with worry. >> i did. there was a period of time, probably a week, where i thought i was going to lose my mind. >> reporter: but a month later, a rare opportunity to confront india when her daughter came home for a birthday celebration. how did she look to you? >> she looked sad. she looked tired. >> reporter: she says her daughter had become very thin, a characteristic of many nxivm women, we're told. oxenberg says india also revealed she had not menstruated in a year. concerned, oxenberg tried an intervention. >> i said, darling, i believe you're brainwashed and she said im not brainwashed and i said
yes, you are and she said no, i'm not. so it's like we didn't get anywhere. >> reporter: oxenberg says her daughter denied having sex with keith raniere. but did admit she was branded. >> i said try to convince me that this is a good thing and she said its character building shes over 18 so legally there's nothing i can do. >> reporter: in a letter posted on the group's website raniere says "there is no merit to the allegations that we are abusing, coercing or harming individuals." raniere says that secret sorority is "not part of nxivm and i am not associated with the group." the letter also says "our experts say members of the sorority are thriving, healthy, happy, better off, and have not been coerced." india did not respond to our request for comment, but she recently posted on facebook a public rebuke to anyone questioning her condition. saying "i'm absolutely fine great actually."
you are absolutely convinced, in the deepest core of you as a mother, that your daughter is not great? she's not fine? >> she's anything but fine. she's in danger in my opinion. she's in grave danger. >> reporter: so grave that oxenberg is speaking out everywhere she can. >> it is kind of grotesque that they would refer to it as a social club, when women have been coerced into thinking that recruiting other women to be branded is a positive empowering experience. it's abuse and it has to be stopped. >> reporter: but the more she protests, the more she could be leaving herself exposed to nxivm's most relentless counterattack. >> he had my garbage gone through. >> people have given up their life savings trying to defend themselves. >> reporter: stay with us.
>> reporter: we've heard from hollywood actresses and former lovers who've shared bad experiences with keith raneire and nxivm. but they also share another painful bond. >> i've been sued and restraining orders on me. >> i've received threats from the company. >> his weapon of choice is the legal system. they just wanna use the litigation, in my opinion, to silence you, harass you, threaten you, and financially cripple you. >> reporter: "terrorism by litigation" is what toni natalie has called it in court filings. she's been sued repeatedly and doggedly. so far, she says, unsuccessfully. >> i believe that the reason that you haven't heard from more people is they're afraid of being sued. >> reporter: a judge tossed out one of raniere's cases against
natalie, saying it "smacks of a jilted fellow's attempt at revenge or retaliation against his former girlfriend." and barbara bochey says when she quit and threatened to go to the press, she got the same treatment. >> i've been dragged into 14 lawsuits, and it's cost me $700,000. imagine 800 court filings. just try that on for a moment. >> reporter: almost broke bouchey says she was repeatedly forced to go to court without a lawyer. but still won case after case. the worst came one christmas eve when bouchey says she was arrested on criminal charges. nxivm claimed she'd illegally logged into their computers, but that too was later dismissed. >> you're instantly an enemy when you leave instantly shunned, instantly cut off, instantly worthless garbage, a liar, bad person. >> keith raniere's group has claimed its litigation is just
an effort to protect its intellectual property and reputation. those efforts have likely cost them millions of dollars. but as reporter brendan lyons found, legal filings allege keith raniere has two secret weapons, these sisters. >> the bronfmans, claire and sarah, who are the heiresses to the seagrams liquor fortune, have been, in large respect, the bankroll for nxivm, for its litigation. >> reporter: these high society sisters have plenty in the bank to roll. their late father was edgar bronfman, multibillionaire seagrams distillary chairman. that bronfman cash allowed the sisters to host the dalai lama's visit to albany. >> my friends, these two young ladies. >> claire brofman, who's even on nxivm's executive board, just
posted this online, "i've seen so much good come from both our programs and from keith himself." >> people have given up their life savings trying to defend themselves. and they're up against the millions of dollars that the bronfmans have at their disposal. >> reporter: court filings allege nxivm hired private investigators to dig dirt on opponents. and bouchey was surprised to get this call from a high level nxivm defector describing how far they allegedly went. >> they ultimately went ahead and got financial information on you, on toni, on every judge in every case that they were involved in. >> reporter: also targeted, she says, are journalists who wrote about the group and outside critics. >> they spent well over a million dollars! >> i never really thought that i would end up in litigation with keith raniere for over ten years. >> reporter: long-time critic rick ross says he's helped some members leave. then he was targeted after
calling nxivm a "cult" on his website. raniere's group sued unsuccessfully, accusing him of making false and misleading representations. >> he had my garbage gone through. he actually paid for my garbage. >> reporter: and that's not all. ross says his private banking and phone records were also dug up, all during all these grueling court battles with raniere's group. >> is there something about his personality that i'm missing when i see him on videotape? >> the federal court would order mediation. so i would have to sit in a room with him. what i would say is, is he charismatic? no. i think he's kind of boring, there's one word keith raniere cannot handle, and that's the word no. >> reporter: toni natalie told police her mailbox was illegally searched. court filings also allege private investigators working for nxivm harassed friends and colleagues of those they were suing. though nxivm and the private investigators deny all these allegations.
now the company may have opened a new legal front south of the border. >> i got a letter from a lawyer, and then a state attorney general, stamped, saying cease and desist or you will be imprisoned. >> cease and desist what? >> from speaking. >> the reason i finally decided to give this interview is i don't want him abusing me or other women or other people anymore. and it needs to stop. >> reporter: coming up, will the recent torrent of accusations finally attract the attention of law enforcement? and if trouble does come how will vanguard react? >> what frightens me is where does he go from here? >> people may be ordered to do something that's very destructive. and they'll do it. >> stay with us.
>> reporter: just last month in monterrey, mexico, a nxvim event was held in this private home. we found that interesting, because someone got a photo of a man believed to be the vanguard himself walking in monterrey. our producer knocked on some doors, but found no trace of the nxivm guru. why would raneire be in mexico? perhaps because there are now reports of new heat in new york state, a possible investigation by the attorney general's office and questions about how sarah edmundson's complaints about the branding were handled. >> when i went to the
authorities, they said, "you consented to it." >> she says the police told her that's why they wouldn't act, and the state department of health said it was "not medical misconduct." edmundson thinks raneire himself should be held accountable. she says she's sure he knew about the branding because she says she saw a text come in from him as she held another woman's phone filming what was happening. >> when we were doing the branding, a text came through from keith and it said, "how are they all doing with each other?" >> so he knew? >> he knew. he knew that we were all being branded. >> but as bad as that was, those already speaking out worry the worst may be yet to come. >> what frightens me is where does he go from here? >> do you worry about nightmare scenarios? >> i do worry, i worry a lot. >> what is that nightmare? >> i'm worried that people may be ordered to do something that's very destructive, and they'll do it. >> insiders believe that raneire has access to a tropical sanctuary in the south pacific paradise of fiji.
as seen in this real estate listing, it's a former resort said to have been purchased by claire bronfman. fleeing to fiji could happen? >> fleeing to fiji very easily could happen and they're all set up to have a very comfortable life there. >> catherine oxenberg, who we've learned met with the new york attorney general's office recently, fears if that happened, she might never see her daughter india again. >> is that your biggest fear? >> my biggest fear is the kool-aid situation. >> kool-aid situation? you mean like jim jones? >> yes, yes i do. >> why? that's a big step. >> not from what he's done, i mean the level of manipulation. if this is about power and control over people, one can not minimize what this person is capable of. >> that's scary to contemplate. >> it's horrendous. >> the former members we met all say their time in nxivm and its aftermath have exacted a heavy emotional toll.
critics say the risks are real, the challenges daunting but speaking out is the only way out. >> it's opened up a portal right now to shine a light on the darkness. this is the best opportunity we're going to get. >> for this report we repeatedly reached out for comment to keith, nancy, allison mack and the bronfman sisters. >> none responded. beyond pointing us to the group's website and a statement on the site. i'm david muir. >> i'm elizabeth vargas. for all of us here at "20/20" and abc news have a great night and a great weekend.